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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Cha Gio Chay (Vietnamese Vegetarian Egg / Spring Rolls)

Cha Gio Chay (Vietnamese Vegetarian Egg Spring Rolls) 1

After working too many hours this summer, eating out too often, eating too much junk, and just, in general, not eating well, I craved vegetables and simple Vietnamese food. Nothing elaborate. Just some cold noodles. Grilled meats. Perhaps a few egg rolls to toss into the bowl.

My standard Cha Gio (Vietnamese Egg/Spring Rolls) were fine, but I had been wanting to challenge myself to come up with a tasty vegetarian version for a while. My mom made vegetarian egg rolls long ago for my Chinese grandfather's first year death anniversary, in which the whole meal is supposed to be vegetarian. All I remembered were the vermicelli noodles, which were quite dry and crunchy because they didn't have anything substantial to latch on to. I don't count the cheap cabbage-only fillers at Chinese buffets. Recently, at my oldest uncle's 49th day death anniversary, the Buddhist temple had an excellent version with shredded taro root.

So in creating my recipe, I knew that I wanted to add some tofu for moisture. Instead of taro, I used a small yam. Have you seen the sizes of taro that are sold at the supermarket? They're just way too big for one person and I didn't want food to go to waste. But other than that, the traditional cha gio ingredients of Nam Meo (Vietnamese Tree Ear Fungus), bean thread vermicelli noodles, and carrots suited me just fine. The main trick then was pressing the tofu to reduce as much liquid as possible so that the egg rolls don't get soggy.

The result? These vegetarian egg rolls were so good that I didn't even see them as a meat substitute, but as a separate recipe all their own. And isn't that how it should be? Not a substitute; just good.

Cha Gio Chay (Vietnamese Vegetarian Egg Spring Rolls) 2

Cha Gio Chay (Vietnamese Vegetarian Egg/Spring Rolls)

For two dozen egg rolls, you'll need:
1 package Chinese egg roll wrappers or Vietnamese rice paper sheets
1 bundle bean thread vermicelli noodles, soaked and drained
1/3 cup dry tree ear fungus, soaked and drained
1 16-oz block tofu, pressed
1 small onion, grated
1 small yam, about 1 cup, grated
1 small carrot, about 1 cup, grated
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
Oil for frying

Optional: 1 egg to help with binding, although it's not essential if you're vegan and want to omit this. Also, instead of the yam, you can use taro or potatoes. You just want something starchy to absorb some of the moisture from the tofu and to help bind the filling.

Soak the bean thread vermicelli noodles and tree ear fungus in warm water. Set aside.

Cha Gio Chay (Vietnamese Vegetarian Egg Spring Rolls) 3

Place several napkins in a shallow bowl and put the tofu on top. Add more napkins on to of the tofu, a plate or chopping board on top of that, and let the tofu drain for about half an hour.

Cha Gio Chay (Vietnamese Vegetarian Egg Spring Rolls) 4

I used darker colored napkins so you can see how much liquid gets pressed out of the block of tofu.

Cha Gio Chay (Vietnamese Vegetarian Egg Spring Rolls) 5

Gather the rest of your ingredients.

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In a bowl, add the tofu and drained tree ear fungus and bean thread noodles. Cut the noodles into about 3-inch sections for ease. Grate a carrot, yam, and onion and add those as well. Add 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp ground black pepper. Add an egg to help bind everything together.

Cha Gio Chay (Vietnamese Vegetarian Egg Spring Rolls) 7

Mix up everything and drain out any excess liquid.

Cha Gio Chay (Vietnamese Vegetarian Egg Spring Rolls) 8

Create your wrapping and rolling station with a bowl of water to bind the edges of the egg rolls.

Cha Gio Chay (Vietnamese Vegetarian Egg Spring Rolls) 9

Separate the egg roll wrappers. If you want to use Vietnamese rice paper wrappers then follow the directions in my Gluten-Free Cha Gio (Vietnamese Spring/Egg Rolls) recipe.

Dip one corner into the bowl of water.

Place the wrapper flat on a surface and add about 2 tblsps of the filling about a third of the way on one corner.

Cha Gio Chay (Vietnamese Vegetarian Egg Spring Rolls) 10

Make one quick roll, making sure to keep the filling tight.

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Fold in the sides.

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Keep rolling, making sure to the filling is tight and the edges are straight.

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Keep rolling!

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And done!

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When you've rolled about half a dozen egg rolls, you can start frying them. Just make sure you check on them in between wrapping and rolling.

Cha Gio Chay (Vietnamese Vegetarian Egg Spring Rolls) 16

I didn't feel like dragging out my wok for only a few egg rolls, so I used my black steel pan, but any iron or steel pan is great for frying. I fry on medium-high heat with the dial a little closer to the medium side. Your stove temperature may vary.

Cha Gio Chay (Vietnamese Vegetarian Egg Spring Rolls) 17

Drain the egg rolls on a rack or napkins to remove excess oil.

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Crispy outside, moist inside.

Cha Gio Chay (Vietnamese Vegetarian Egg Spring Rolls) 19

And if you're making Vietnamese vegetarian egg rolls simply because you like them, and not because you're vegetarian, you can even make a cold noodle dish and serve them with Nem Nuong (Vietnamese Grilled Pork Patties).

Cha Gio Chay (Vietnamese Vegetarian Egg Spring Rolls) 20

Eat them these vegetarian egg rolls plain or with Nuoc Cham Xi Dau (Vietnamese Soy Dipping Sauce).

Also, if you don't plan to eat these all at once, store the extra filling in a colander placed inside a bowl to drain excess liquid. The mixture should keep in the refrigerator for several days.


My other egg roll recipes:
Gluten-Free Cha Gio (Vietnamese Spring/Egg Rolls)
Cha Gio (Vietnamese Egg/Spring Rolls)
Cha Gio Bap/Ram Bap (Vietnamese Corn Egg Rolls)
Cha Ram (Vietnamese Shrimp Egg Rolls)
Egg Rolls Stuffed with Bananas and Mangoes with Nutella Dipping Sauce
Egg Rolls with Salmon and Avocado
Lumpiang Prito (Filipino Fried Egg Rolls)

1 year ago today, Meal, Ready-To-Eat: Chicken Cavatelli.
2 years ago today, Cliff Palace - Mesa Verde National Park - Colorado.
3 years ago today, Sangria with Red Wine.
4 years ago today, 5 of 7 random things about me meme: I love Target.


  1. These look really good! But I have a question, when you say yam, do you mean american kinda yams that most people only use for thanksgiving? Or a different sort of yam?

    Love your site!

  2. Biki,
    Umm, I know there's a difference between yams and sweet potatoes, but they're the same to me. :P I used a garnet yam, or was it garnet sweet potato? But yes, the kind used for Thanksgiving dinner. You can also use the equivalent in taro or regular potatoes. I'll edit the recipe to reflect that. The starch serves to give something a little more substantial for the noodles to cling to because tofu alone would be too mushy.

  3. I love the idea that making fresh cha gio is a quick easy meal for you! I make a veto version that's much the same though I don't tend to use tofu. I also tend to add finely diced cauliflower because you know how I feel about cauliflower!

  4. YUM! I like the idea of trying tofu and yam. Your instructional pictures are terrific.

  5. It's getting better and better- your posts I mean! I have been spending some time reading some past posts. Sorry I haven't been here as much!! Love your version of this- especially with the root veges and tofu. I love mashed yam in spring rolls! gives it a cream taste.

  6. love your blog and miss your posting! hope you'll be back in the near future!

  7. I've been miserably sick for the past 2 weeks and wanted some Viet comfort food - chao. I found this site from googling the recipe and wanted to let you know that I think it's WONDERFUL.

    Growing up, my mother would shoo us out of the kitchen or put us to work helping her with prep, so I never learned how to cook Vietnamese dishes. Echoing what Phan-tabulous wrote above, in a perfect world I'd learn all this from her, but this is the next best thing. It's been difficult for me to try to learn from my mother, as she doesn't use measuring cups and can't explain how she knows how much to put in. It's even harder to learn to cook when I don't quite understand what she's trying to tell me, or learn to shop for the food when she doesn't know what its English translation is! This blog serves as a bridge between generations - recipes make a lot more sense when I read your version of it first and then have her show me how she does things.

    I hope you also know that not only are you sharing your tips and recipes, you are sharing your culture. I was born in the US, don't truly understand many of the Vietnamese traditions, and am losing the language as I grow older.As a result, I feel like I don't really 'connect' with the Asian side of me. It's difficult to feel a part of the Vietnamese culture when you can't speak the language or feel a part of the traditions. Food, though - lots of memories of the food we ate while I was growing up! Reading your blog gives me hope that I will be able to learn how to cook the dishes that were so familiar to me as a child, and perhaps pass them on to my children someday.

    All that being said, I had a quick question for you - have you ever considered or tried using a deep fryer to fry eggrolls? My parents do it the same way you do in a pan outside, but as a beginner cook, using a deep fryer with a basket and lid seems less scary than a pan of oil! What are your thoughts on frying eggrolls this way?

    Many thanks for all you do!!

  8. Like the other commenters above, I love your blog. Thanks for your good recipes. As for the restaurant reviews I appreciate and actually learn something about Vietnamese food from them. That's kinda cool. It's fun to see what you are crafting too. Thanks so much. I hope all is well and we miss you!

  9. Ok, I know I'm late to the party here but I've never made homemade eggrolls of any sort but I absolutely love them. Your post makes it look so easy and I love the idea of the shredded yams. If I can get through all the Christmas stuff early, I'm going to make these as appetizers for Christmas family dinner!

  10. Where are you? It's been forever and I can't survive on archives alone. Love your recipes, rants and wanderings and looking forward to more.

  11. Oanh,
    Not quick and easy, I said simple. I had been craving simple, basic Vietnamese flavors. :)


    Thanks! Especially since I know you've been reading for a long time and remember how awful the pictures in my early posts looked.

    You should comment more then. :)

    Thanks for such nice words. I think most Vietnamese mothers are like yours, including mine. Just learn by doing. My cooking has improved as time goes on. As for using a deep fryer, it works just fine. Whichever method is most comfortable for you is the one you should choose.

    La Takahashi,
    Glad you're learning from the restaurant posts too. Sometimes I wonder why I keep doing them since the recipes get a lot more response, but I like to vary things as well.

    Eggrolls are easy. Don't be afraid.

    Polka Padre,
    Well, then you should comment more often!


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